“Car après la mort le Temps se retire du corps…” —Proust
We all know by now that the time-reversal invariance governing statistical mechanics at the microlevel maps by a simple equation onto the macroworld, making “time travel” a wholly unsurprising possibility… but damn! The first time you go back there’s just nothing like it.
I know all these first-person accounts of ChronoSwooping have become a cliché here on Substack, where, let’s face it, anyone can write pretty much whatever they want no matter how self-indulgent and derivative. Nevertheless I think I have some unusual insights to share, which derive from my own experience but which may offer some general lessons as to the nature and significance of time travel, both the original and long-prohibited “body-transit” method as well as the newer and more streamlined ChronoSwoop.
This is not only because I spent some years in the archives of the Stadzbybliotiēka of the Margraviate of East K****, poring over the notebooks in which Quast first landed on the Quast equation, while in parallel jotting down sundry philosophical reflexions about the nature of Divine Tempus—as he called it—that have largely been neglected by other researchers. It is also because I have used the ChronoSwoop app in ways that are expressly prohibited by its makers, and indeed by the federal government. In light of this, while I am writing this product review for Substack and in the emerging “Substack style,” until the law changes or I depart permanently from the chronological present, I will be posting this piece only on the Hinternet-based Substack oglinda (Romanian for “looking-glass,” a hacking neologism supposedly coined by Guccifer 3.0), which I’m told is undetectable, remaining entirely unknown even to the original company’s founders. Fingers crossed.
Perhaps some readers on this blog will appreciate a brief summary of what’s been happening in the world of time travel since Quast first came up with his equation in 1962. I don’t know what sort of information has been circulating down here, and I don I don’t want anyone to feel left behind.
The early 1960s witnessed great leaps forward not just in time-travel technology, but in the technology of teletransportation as well—which is to say dematerialization of the body, and its rematerialization elsewhere, but without any measurable “metachrony.” By late 1966 poorly regulated teletransporters had begun to pop up on the state fair circuit, tempting daredevils into ever more foolish stunts. But this practice was curtailed already the following year, when, expecting to reappear kneeling before his sweetheart Deb at the stables with a ring in his hand, Roy Bouwsma, aka “the Omaha Kid,” got rematerialized instead with the stable door cutting directly through the center of his body from groin to skull—one half of him flopping down at Deb’s feet, the other half falling, like some neat bodily cross section carefully made for students of anatomy, into the stable with Deb’s confused horse Clem.
But while this atrocious moment, broadcast live on KMTV, nipped the new craze in the bud, the technology underlying it had already been adapted for use in what was then called “Tempus-Gliding,” which had the merely apparent advantage of concealing from those in the present any potential accident in the rematerialization of the voyager to the past. Of course, accidents continued to happen, and news of them eventually made its way back from past to present, bringing about all sorts of familiar paradoxes in the spacetime continuum. Tempus-Gliding, like any metachronic technology relying on body-transit, was a door thrown wide open to all the crazy scenarios we know from the time-travel tropes in science fiction going back at least to HG Wells: adults returning to the past and meeting themselves as children, meeting their parents before they were even born, causing themselves never to have been born and so suddenly to vanish, and so on. By the end of the 1960s people, and sometimes entire families, entire lineages, were vanishing as a daily occurrence (just recall the 1969 Harris family reunion in Provo!). You could almost never say exactly why, since the traveler to the past who would unwittingly wipe out all his descendants often had yet, in the present, ever to even try Tempus-Gliding.